Things and Stuff.

ENG 350 Week 1 – California Chapters 1-7

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The opening of California (by Edan Lepucki) has been refreshing. Growing up with media such as Captain Planet and Ferngully, I’ve been inoculated against the over-the-top personal pleas for the average person doing what they can to fix whatever is wrong with the environment that week. If you, average American child, do not recycle that can, you are leading us to the environmental apocalypse! California acknowledges that the problem isn’t the average American—it’s the rich capitalist, the corporation—that’s causing the problems. It is, however, the average American that suffers.

Frida fawns over her artifacts, including the like-new turkey baster, as reminders of what life was before it began to end. Though as the story progresses, we learn that the end was already there. The irreversible causes had already had their effect, and it was just a matter of time before everyone felt them. Resources became more and more scarce, and only the rich could afford them. Frida’s artifacts seem less like symbols of what her life was, but more like what life should have been had humanity cared enough to not destroy itself. It’s more of a hope that they could return to the ideal, should they come across some wonderful fix or some way to get into the Communities.

Naming their plot of land the Afterlife is a bit like holding on to her collection of objects. While the move there was Frida and Cal’s abandonment of the world, they still call it something based on their interpretation of the world. But the name also shows their acceptance that they really can’t salvage the world in any way. To not call it “Eden” is an admission that the move was not for a new beginning; it was for a new ending. Rather than be just another body in an alley outside a hospital, unable to afford care, they chose to be away from everything and care only for themselves. They threw themselves to the wild knowing full well they could not tame anything.

Lepuki’s descriptions of the wilds reclaiming urban centers and man-made objects makes something extremely clear about global warming and its effects on humanity: the world will continue even if we cannot live in it. Super-storms and other “acts of God” are already present and destroying civilization’s mark upon the world; they’re no different in California. Cal’s parents in Cleveland succumbed to harsh blizzards and the west coast is devastated by other natural events. Being able to ignore it is a privilege for the wealthy, but they are only ignoring what will eventually happen to them.

Reading the beginning of this book I was reminded often of the Fallout series; an eternally wasteful USA drains the world of its resources and goodwill, and succumbs to the events they cannot control. Though it is nuclear war in Fallout, the anarchic, community-based societies that follow the destruction are similar. The isolationists, the raiders/pirates, the feral communities are present in both the Fallout games and California.

Frida and Cal’s devotion to each other is not total—while they are clearly not physically unfaithful, they each, for their own reasons, choose to keep their emotions and thoughts from each other. It is strange that they would do so considering a fear of what the other might think (such as with Frida’s drug use) is a product of a society in which they no longer participate. Even marriage is a relic of this society, just as Frida’s artifacts are.

There is so much that can be said even in these first few chapters about Lepucki’s take on what would happen during the social apocalypse, especially since I haven’t even mention Micah yet. Micah (and his supposed death) is a huge catalyst for both Frida and Cal in the story; his return in chapter 8 intrigues me.

English Classes – Summer 2018

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I’m enrolled in two English classes this summer that require blog posts for interaction. I’ll be putting them here on SDO with tags for each class—ENG350 for Dystopian Lit and ENG363 for New Feminist Memoir. Use the links here or below the post to find all writings as they are posted for each class.

Dental Issues

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Back in January, at my 6-month dental cleaning, the x-rays showed I had a cavity. My first one ever. I went along with the suggestion to get it drilled and filled right away, and within two weeks I had some white resin where there had been solid tooth before. Almost immediately, I had cold sensitivity on that tooth. I figured this was part of the healing process – and the internet confirmed it – so I waited.

Two weeks later, it was still there, but not getting any worse. I saw the dentist and they took new x-rays. It showed that the filling was close to the nerve, but it should heal up soon. The dentist said it might take longer than expected because the drilling had gotten so close to the nerve. So I waited.

Last week, I had my next 6-month cleaning. I said that the temperature sensitivity is still there; hot or cold. It’s not debilitating, but extremely annoying. I asked what my options are. I could get a root canal, which would leave much of the original tooth but remove the nerve. Or I could get the tooth extracted, which would obviously leave a gap.

I went with the extraction. The tooth causing problems was my back left molar. It was at an angle in the first place, so it was barely used. I didn’t care about retaining any of it. The dentist didn’t pressure me into the root canal, and I set up my appointment with their dentist that does extractions.

The next week, she looks at the x-rays and asks if I’m sure I want to get the tooth extracted. It’s a perfectly healthy tooth, she says. I explain that healthy or not, there is cold sensitivity that has been annoying me for 6 months and has gotten no better or worse. It has to go. I’m not wasting my time on a root canal that might end up in an extraction later.

She numbs me up and removes the tooth. Quick, painless. I ask her for the tooth. She says she’s not allowed to give it to me, but if she set it in a cup and looked away, she wouldn’t know what happened to it.

After the extraction was paid for, I drove over to my husband’s work and we took a short walk around the towpath trail. My face was slowly losing the numbness. There was some swelling, but not any real pain.

Later, I washed off the tooth that was removed and examined it. At the edge of the filling, on the inside so that when you took and x-ray you couldn’t see it, was a cavity that was the size of the filling. The dentist had missed part of the original cavity, and it either was still there or had spread.

I’m glad I got it removed.

Spider Bites

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I’ve been researching various spiders recently because I’ve been trying to find out what bit me, and I’m fairly certain that it was the brown widow. We’d seen the spider around the bathroom previously, and she kept to herself. She had that definite black widow shape, but with a big brown booty instead of being shiny black. Her web was a disorganized mess, but she was collecting carpenter ants like crazy so we let her stay.

A few days before the bites, I noticed she was gone from her usual spot behind the toilet, so I just assumed she moved somewhere else after exhausting her supply of carpenter ants. I was right, and late Wednesday/early Thursday, I found out where she’d gone. Apparently under the headboard.

The way I sleep, I put my arms under my pillow, and occasionally my hands will be in the space between the mattress and the headboard. Our mattress is about three inches or so too short for the bed frame, so we have quite a bit of space there. I’m assuming she got herself somewhere around there and was just startled by my hands.

I woke up Thursday morning around 1 to 1:30 chewing on my right ring finger. It was itchy and swollen, and in my sleep I had started trying to scratch it with my teeth. At the time I assumed it was a mosquito bite on my knuckle because I’d heard one buzzing around before I went to bed.

I stayed in bed and tried to go back to sleep, but the itchiness just continued. After a while, I could no longer feel the pillow with my ring or pinky fingers. I could only feel itchiness. I got out of bed and ran my hand under cold water for a while. I noticed that I had a few spots where my teeth had broken skin, probably from my eczema blisters that were stretched out from the swelling. I used a washcloth to scratch my finger so I wouldn’t tear the skin.

The swelling of the finger was enough to keep me from closing my hand all the way. The itchiness had died down enough that I could go back to sleep, so I did.

When I got up in the morning, the itchiness was gone, but my hand was still swollen. I got out of bed and the first thing I noticed was that my right leg did not want to work. A tendon on my right knee felt like it was swollen and would not let me bend my leg without pain. James got me some ice and did the driving for the day. My leg pain did not subside, even with pain killers. I had a strange pain in my left collar bone as well. I didn’t really think that all of these were connected because I still thought it was just a mosquito bite.

I spent the day trying to find out what could possibly cause this. The results came up as widow spider bites. There are several kinds, but people only seem to fear the black widow. The articles I found said this is because the black widow will inject much more of her weaker venom, causing more pain. The brown widow, and the other widows if they bite, will use small amounts of their stronger venom. Brown widows are an invasive species, new to the US and not common enough in Ohio to be listed as having the state as in their range. Everything I read fit, but I still had my doubts. There were bites from mites and other things that could possibly have similar effects.

That night, the swelling in my hand was down enough that I could actually tell where the bites were. One just under my ring fingernail. Another about two inches down, below the knuckle. Yet another about four inches down on my hand. And another one about six inches down that on my arm. My left hand has one bite on the index finger and one on the middle finger, below the first knuckle. Those ones didn’t seem to have any ill effects other than redness and itchiness.

I began to look at various bug bite pictures, trying to confirm what was going on. Nothing I looked at really matched until I got back to widow spiders. I don’t know why I doubted it so much, but this is really all it could have been.

Friday morning, the pain in my leg had spread a little. Rather than just being the tendon at my knee, it was now my calf muscle and a muscle in my thigh. I went to work and kept my leg propped up, but then my left shoulder started to get the same pain. At one point, I went to the rest room and found another spider bite on my right thigh. That’s what convinced me it had to have been a brown widow. My right knee having pain wasn’t something unrelated to the bites on my hand. I found a bite on my left elbow later.

I left work early and just chilled around the house. I read more on brown widows, trying to ID the spider in the bathroom from memory. I was at the point where I couldn’t tell if my memory was helping me find the spider by looking at images, or if looking at images was molding my memory of the spider. I remembered the big booty. I remembered the size. I remembered the web. That matched. But the hourglass? I don’t remember seeing that. I don’t remember seeing the designs on the abdomen. I don’t remember the stripes on the legs.

Friday night, as James and I were about to get into the car, I noticed a spider in the window of the garage. She had the booty. We looked at her, and based on what we’d both seen about brown widows, we’re certain that is what bit me EIGHT FUCKING TIMES.

The First Meal

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I never meant to kill my first one. It was passion first, an accident second. After that, though, all intentional.

I lived as a wanderer, always. To succeed in my detached lifestyle, I needed to acquire certain skills. I could have, like many other women in my position, fucked my way to safety every night. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of whoring, it works. But these girls who did it exclusively were being taken advantage of. I don’t like being the weaker party.

I was a robber, mostly. I’d sneak in, or I’d worm my way in through pity or smarm, whatever it took. If I got nothing more than food and supplies from the people, I was happy. I never took more than I could use or sell quickly. I wasn’t looking for riches, I just wanted to be in charge of my own life. If things got too hot to handle, I’d bolt. Someone woke up, or confronted me, I’d drop it all and cut my losses. I’d never fight; I didn’t count fighting to be part of my skillset. I was a coward, truly. A mouse stealing bread crumbs from the pantry. My skin was worth more to me than whatever I was taking.

I was at the docks one day, doing as the dock ladies do. The regulars were giving me dirty looks because I didn’t dress or call out like them. I wasn’t a professional, I didn’t care what they thought clients wanted. So I stood apart. A little out of their range. Let them snigger, let them complain. Guys who know what they want can go to them. I’ll be here for the timid ones who don’t want to want to dive into the dark alley of gaping holes.

On the outer edge is where I met her, though. My first one. She was dressed head to toe in white lace and jewels. Far overdressed for even the nearby market. She walked directly to me and said, “Come with me. You look cleaner than the rest.” She continued walking, but not back the way she came.

“I don’t do housework,” I called after her, thinking she’s making a mistake.

“I know what you do,” she said without turning.

I shrugged and followed. She did not turn to acknowledge me, but she knew I was there. She made a point to only walk where there would be enough room for me to trail behind without having to look for her.

We left the docks, and followed a well worn dirt path to the rocky shore. There, she entered a split in the rocks. I stood back. The hairs on my neck prickled in apprehension at the thought that this could be a trap.

“It’s not a trap,” she called out.

“Yeah, real comforting coming from the trapper,” I called back. She laughed.

I entered.

She wore a glowing pendant that lit the way in the narrow cave. I held her hand so I’d not get lost. It was soft, as if she’d never done anything but put cream on them all day.

I tried to remember which directions we were turning; just in case I needed to get out in a hurry. It was hard, I never even felt the walls to know if there were any breaks to get lost in. She moved like she’d memorized this path.

Soon, she reached a wooden door. She tapped it with a finger and the door opened.

I panicked. I knew I shouldn’t have followed her. Glowing gems, magic doors, she’s a witch! She’s going to cut out my eyeballs and use them in potions!

Her grip was unnaturally tight. I didn’t move an inch. “Get inside,” she said, her voice soft and strong. I stilled and obeyed; I’d certainly lost my advantage. She released my hand and I looked around, trying to study my surroundings. I needed to know a way out.

This certainly wasn’t a witch’s cave—the room was tall and white, with ornate sconces dotting the walls. One wall was entirely glass panels. I saw the sea and sunset clearly.

My panic subsided and I pieced together where I was. From the docks, I had seen a tall white mansion where they said shipmaster lived. “Are you the dock warden?” I asked.

“I am the Sea,” she replied.

“So his wife,” I said.

She smiled. “You are a clever one,” she said. She explained that her husband was out to sea often, and rarely home to please her. She couldn’t bring in lovers through the front door, so she found a cave and connected it the house.

That’s what she wanted me for. Fine, I thought, I can do that, and then rob the shit out of this place. I didn’t normally steal for wealth, but this was too good to pass up. The docks would be easy enough to get to, and then get away from.

Yet, I stayed for days. I lived like a queen with her. I was her little secret to keep from the servants, she said. I never saw any, though. She brought the food and drink. So the servants either knew enough to stay away, or there were no servants. I refused to believe that her word alone kept them from her bedroom without suspecting a guest.

There was something else keeping me there, though. I could taste it every time I kissed her; she was the Sea. Her lips tasted of the salty ocean; her touch was soft like the waves lapping the shore. Every breath I took near her felt like I was inhaling her strength. She was intoxicating.

My vision changed at each encounter and all was a dream around her. Colors left, and the void was filled by thoughts of her. Of the Sea. I saw only her power—the ocean and the stars and the sky. She controlled me with them, just as I suppose she controlled her husband. I think perhaps it was his fear of her that kept him away. If he even existed.

She washed over me constantly—I no longer had an advantage, but at this point did not care. I had only a desire of drowning in her; soft and salty and strong. It was impossible to tell if I was dead or alive; to know if I was rolling in bed sheets or in waves. I don’t even know if what we did constituted sexual pleasure anymore. She both filled me and exhausted me.

I awoke one morning to find myself hungrier for her power than ever. The world looked dark and colorless, but I could tell it was already well into the morning. I looked at her, lying next to me, and she was sleeping.

I stared at her face, and, for a moment, saw a shimmer of color. It intrigued me. I held her face, positioning it to see the shimmer again. She awoke and smiled; I suppose expecting a kiss. At the time I had no interest. Her face, her lips, were darkness. I needed that shimmer. But her lips were the way to get it. I kissed her passionately, and the shimmer moved into me. I could feel it. It washed over me, filled me with the warmth of the surface of the sea. I closed my eyes and felt it seep in.

I breathed deep, and opened my eyes.

The world was still darkness.

Her eyes were closed.

I had swallowed the Sea.


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I haven’t updated in forever. Here’s some writing.

Husk bore no grudges against the living. Her pursuit was of knowledge, not vengeance. She remembered few of the things he learned, however. This, in part, is what kept her from seeking any retribution for what the living had done to her. Why seek revenge, she reasoned, when I don’t even know if I was wronged?
The living allowed her to walk among them, but not unmolested. Children would throw rocks or rotten food at her; the grown would give her dirty looks or turn away. A few of the young would confront her, she was told, and beat her into submission. She never remembered these encounters.
Husk was not what they considered a “person.” All she knew of her life was relayed to her by those that hated her. She had no idea of her own history, and so she could not deny any of their accusations. They told her that she was born dead and should have stayed that way. They said her mother used unnatural magic to bring breath into her lungs. They told her that if she was meant to live in this world, she would be able to remember it. They told her she should leave this world as soon as possible.
“You are dead yet you walk the roads,” they would say to Husk. She believed them. She could see well enough that her skin was dry and clinging to her meager frame. Her gait was a shamble, slower even than the elderly matrons who tended the gardens.
“You are dead yet to speak to us,” they would say. Husk knew the sound of her own voice and how it rasped against her peeling throat as she exhaled. She knew it was not a pleasing sound to the living, and so she kept it to herself a much as she could.
“You are dead yet you read,” the meddyg would say to her. “Reading is not a skill many possess here.” The meddyg is living, Husk noted, and does not hate me.
Meddyg Yu-Isu provided Husk with much reading material. He showed much patience compared to the none-at-all the other living showed her. He had no problems at all providing her a book he had already read three time over; he understood her mind was fragile. He knew she was prone to forgetting things, especially when she is damaged.

“Yu,” Husk whispered, looking up from her book. The skin on her neck crackled as she moved.
Yu-Isu turned from his stitching to face his patient. “Pardon me a moment,” he said to the horrified man.
“I didn’t even know that thing was here,” the man said, a look of utter disgust on his face.
“That thing forgets more in a day than you will ever know,” Yu-Isu hissed in response. He jabbed the needle into his patient’s leg more roughly than required for the last few stitches before moving to the table at which Husk was seated. “How can I help you, friend?”
“I read thi—” she started, but shut her crackling lips on the word. She shook her head softly, indicating to Yu-Isu yet again that she’d forgotten what she was going to say.
He patted her lightly on the back and said, “Some day, don’t worry.”
Yu-Isu stood and collected a few herbs and vials from a cabinet before returning to his patient. “The vials,” he said to him, “You are to add to your drinks. The herbs you add to your food. They will heal you from the inside. Do not touch the stitches. Bathe in the spring in seven days and then return. Now get out, you are distracting Husk.”

Dreams 8-12

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I had a dream last night that some bad artist was selling poster prints of 1. someone else’s (much better) art, 2. their own crappy sketch-comics, and 3. horribly patched together photoshop-recolored emo photographs. The prints were on display in a Walgreens, and the artist insisted that everyone must leave comments in writing on fabric.

1. First piece was titled “Slavecrab Party”—It was headcrabs from half-life wearing party hats. The original artist painted it and the rip-off artist made prints and added the title and her signature.

2. Their crappy comics were pencil on white background, poorly drawn with no concept of anatomy, and was obviously drawn on notebook paper and then laid out in photoshop, where they tried (and failed) to completely remove the blue line. The “panels” (there were no lines) were in no perceptible order and there was a lot of irregularly sized white space. The subject matter was two of the class characters from TF2 falling in cartoon love with each other, complete with bugged-out eyes/hearts and falling rose petals.

3. The image was a kid with long hair in black standing in front of a tree, looking down so you couldn’t see the face. The tree, the kid, and the ground were from all different photographs and at different resolutions

The comment cloth was cut from t-shirts and baby clothes into the shape of panties.

I title this dream DEVIANTART.COM



Short dreams:

I visited the mother of some long-dead artist-friend and gave her some stuff. She complained about how artist-friend’s widow had already remarried.

A package intended for us went to a neighbors house. They had put the package with all the moving boxes of the neighbor. The neighbors weren’t home and we didn’t feel right just taking the boxes, in case someone else saw and told the neighbors we stole stuff.

Sonic the hedgehog vs. Shadow in a race down some minecraft stair maze. I kept losing playing at sonic until instead of running right away, I grabbed Shadow and threw him off the edge.













Ibis’s Flight 3

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Though I walked ahead of Cefin and could not see him struggling, I heard increasing instances of dirt and gravel slipping under his feet. He needed to rest again, but would not admit it. He had walked for hours before coming to my home, and now I have made him walk several more.

“Let’s rest,” I said, and I heard him sit on the cave’s floor before I’d even turned around. When I did so, he looked tired, shaken, and cold.

I traded a packet of pumpkin seeds for a warm cauldron of stew. The seeds were an abundance afforded me by living near Dref Pumpen, the village Cefin presided over peaceably for a dozen years. The stew was a specialty made by a fire mage living in Tan from his abundance of rattlesnakes.

Years of knowing me and what I do apparently didn’t prepare Cefin for the sight of me removing a steaming black iron pot of food from a satchel that could easily hold no more than a couple books. I admired the look of shock on his face for a few brief seconds before I handed him a spoon and said, “Eat up. I didn’t get any bowls.” Thankfully he was hungry enough to not ask what the meat was.

I was not safe from the “Where’d you get it?” question that followed. I tried to dodge the query with a shrug and “magic.”

“Oh come off it,” Cefin replied. “You don’t have to tell me everything, can’t you just describe it a little?

“I suppose,” I replied, “That I could tell you about the craftsmanship of the box that contains the Meddyg magic without directly telling you what it is. But if I bore you to sleep I’m not waking you up.”

“I assure you that you’ll have every ounce of my remaining attention.”

“A couple thousand years ago, an Ofyddar, I won’t bore you with his full name, but we’ll call him Gallai, looked sideways at life and found an extra way to see things. He found that it allowed him to see other people looking at life sideways. They eventually worked together to hone their vision so that they could look and talk and trade sideways without doing it accidentally. Like now, I found someone who wants this empty cauldron, and she gave me some bedding.”

I didn’t hide the transfer from Cefin this time, but there wasn’t much to see. Where the cauldron once was, there were now two bed rolls. I continued, “Unlike a magician’s tricks, trading through the Leuni doesn’t need to be flashy. It just happens, everything is immediate. There’s no bang, there’s no light, there’s no smell of spent explosives.”

Cefin grabbed a bedroll. As he prepped it for sleep he said, “You could add some blast-caps to make it more exciting.”

“Some do,” I replied and prepped my bed. “The ones who want to locally swap entertainment for supplies. It’s a good thing if you’ve got nothing worth trading.”

“So this ‘loony’,” Cefin asked, “Can it handle some walls? We’re in a tunnel here and I feel exposed.”

“No, it probably can’t handle walls,” I answered, “But it can handle us. How do you feel about sleeping in a barn tonight?”

Going Back to Yntraw (updated)

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Outside the shop, a man nervously approached the door. He would take a few determined steps forward before losing all courage, at which time he’d stop, turn, and go back the way he came. This repeated several times as Darina watched. He made a small amount of progress with each attempt, small enough that she grew impatient watching him. She stood beside her bicycle and waited. He would enter soon, she was certain of it, his time was near. She was there to guide him, but she couldn’t do it until he went inside.

Darina screwed her face in annoyance and squeezed the handlebars on her bike. As they warped in her fingers, she heard a short gasp from beside her. There, on the bus stop bench, sat a young mother and her infant. “I’m not after you,” Darina said, irritated. The woman clutched the child closer to her breast. “Nor your brat, so don’t suffocate it.”

The door to the shop across the street had bells tied to the handle that jingled as the man finally went inside. Darina quickly collected her bicycle in her hands, warping and bending the metal effortlessly out of existence. She made haste for the shop front, pausing in front of the door to make sure the man was not looking out the glass. Currently, he was engaged in looking like a nonchalant shopper, though he still showed signs of anxiety.

Darina sighed and opened the door as quietly as possible, distorting the metal of the bells enough to prevent their announcement of her entry. It should not be this way, she thought. He has the blood of a great house in him, but houses were no longer powers in this land. Here was this man, distant ancestor of a great lord that once ruled half the State with his cunning and valor, reduced to robbing a shop just to afford a place to rest.

Desperation does funny things to people’s minds. She’d seen it before, in others she was sent to guide. It’s manifested itself to her has begging, bribery, and brutality. Most men knew, however, that when a Guide came to them, it was their time, and they were to accept it.

She made her way to a corner of the shop, stooping slightly to be out of the man’s sight. A few moments later, all other patrons had left, and only Darina, the man, and the woman behind the counter remained. The woman saw her, recognized what she was, and grew visibly tense. Darina shook her head slightly, hoping to indicate to the unlucky woman that it wasn’t her time today.

The man turned toward the counter and drew a firearm in one swift motion. The clerk seemed to have taken the hint from the Guide and ducked below the counter. The potential robber leaned over the counter to point his gun at her, but the weapon was quickly swatted out of his hand by the clerk.

Darina advanced as the clerk rose from behind the counter with an aluminum bat. The man dodged her swing by hopping back, but in his haste knocked over a product display. As the clerk retreated into the office to contact the authorities, Darina positioned herself in sight of the man. He looked at her, then looked around at the floor, the ceiling, trying to spy anything that could help him. He looked toward the counter, finding that clerk had come out of the office again. She was aiming his gun at him. Their eyes locked only briefly, and the woman fired.

The man turn as the bullet impacted with his shoulder. Darina caught him before he could fall to the ground. He looked up at her, and she graced him with a smile. She hoped that it would comfort him in his final moments. His death was imminent, predicted in the tapestries of time and life to be this day, this hour, this place. She awaited his final words…

I hear you things bleed black,” he said as he smiled back at Darina. Her smile quickly faded, however, as she felt something sharp punch into her belly. Again, and again, she felt it. The pain was more than she’d ever felt before; it distracted her so much she barely heard the clerk fire the gun several times more. Eventually the man’s efforts to slay death ended as he succumbed to his new wounds.

The man and Darina fell to the floor in each other’s arms at that point, shock still dominating her facial features. The clerk grabbed the man by the back of the shirt and dragged his body aside. “Who guides you?” the woman asked, her voice faltering in confusion as she attempted to staunch the blood flow with her hands. “Who guides you, who guides you?”

You,” Darina managed to say in a labored breath, “you . . . are Mi—“

Yeah, I’m Mirna,” the clerk cut her off, hoping to save the dying Guide the effort of speaking. She removed the sweatshirt she was wearing at that time and placed it over Darina’s midsection, pressing it firmly. “You do bleed black,” she said as the blood quickly soaked through, and then, more to herself than to the dying, “Who’s going to take care of you?”

Darina struggled to speak, but managed in halting breaths, “I will never die.” She placed her hands on Mirna’s wrists and pushed feebly upon them. Mirna took the hint and released the pressure upon the wound. Darina took the blood-soak clothing off her stomach and tossed it aside before passing out completely upon the floor.


When the police and paramedics arrived, none knew what to do with Darina. Mirna listened as they discussed, but was involved in her own conversation with the police.

While explaining what happened, she caught some snippets. An officer insisted that the Guide be patched up. A medic said that they couldn’t treat the guide, citing her complete lack of internal organs as proof that nothing could be done. Another officer said that she should just be carted to the morgue along with the failed robber. The medic responded that he couldn’t do that because the “thing” wasn’t dead.

Calling Darina a “thing” didn’t sit well with Mirna. She called out to the group, “That ‘thing’ saved my life!”

It also caused you to take another man’s life,” responded the officer interviewing her.

Mirna’s face went blank. She hadn’t yet thought of that. She was the one that shot the man to death. It was so easy to forget that the Guides did not kill, they were merely there when a killing occurred. But this time, this time the Guide was hurt. This time, Death was dying. Mirna had shot the man once in self defense. She killed him because he hurt Darina.


The authorities had finally decided that Darina should go to the hospital; they didn’t know much about Guides, but they knew that there were other Guides wherever death occurred. They were sure that one of them would know what to do with this one.

Mirna watched and waited as the Guide of the hospital came in to evaluate Darina. He stared at the open wound that was no longer bleeding like a tipped inkwell.

In a motion that made Mirna feel ill, he placed a finger inside the inert patient’s cavity, then to his mouth. He tasted it, and looked thoughtful about it. Mirna squirmed, and he smiled. “She should return to Yntraw,” he said.

I can’t take her,” Mirna responded nervously. She lifted her hands so that the Guide could see they were bound to each other and then to her ankles. She was a murderer, but the peacekeepers felt she would not cause harm locked in a room with Death.

He smiled a mischievous grin that made Mirna even more squeamish. “She needs death to survive,” he said as he leaned toward her.

Mirna recoiled as if he’d advanced on her. His presence was overwhelming. She suddenly realized how horrible a plea it was when she asked to be alone in the room. She was now surrounded by two agents of death, one needing her to die to save herself. A darkness washed over her vision and she cowered.

The man (if he could be called such a thing) laughed. “I am Aras,” he said, “And I am not here to guide you.”

Mirna remained in a tight, fetal ball until she heard his footsteps retreat and the door shut. She crawled to the bed on which Darina was laid out. The hospital did not want to waste quality equipment on someone who would not benefit from their services, and so had given her a broken bed and some stained sheets. “Why is this happening?” Mirna asked aloud, expecting and receiving no response. She rose to her knees next to the bed and placed and elbow as best she could upon the mattress.

She looked up and found herself staring directly into the gaping wound. Before she could verbally express her disgust, she involuntarily touched the blood pooled in Darina’s open gut. It coated her finger like tar, far thicker than what had covered her hands and arms back at the shop.

Out of some warped desire to know what Aras had found so interesting about the flavor of this pitch-black liquid, she too placed her finger into her mouth. Her world rolled around her, her vision twisted and blurred. Everything in her body told her that she needed to vomit and to do it quickly. She was unsure if she ever did, because she soon blacked out.


Mirna awoke to find herself in a bed next to Darina, with Aras sitting between them. “Oh good, you are awake,” Aras said as he heard Mirna shift under her bedsheets while she looked around. “Your friend was awake.” Mirna looked to the other bed and saw part of it was melted and twisted near Darina’s hands. “She sleeps now, but soon we will take her to Yntraw.”

We?” Mirna coughed. She could taste the stagnant stomach acid in her mouth. “I’m pretty certain I can’t go anywhere,” she said and lifted her hands. The cuffs and chains clanked.

Darina will help,” Aras replied, pointing to a warped portion of the bed. “It will be wonderful. You will be a ravishing fugitive, I will be mysterious protector, and she will be our beautiful, haunted princess. It will be like a grand adventure that you only hear about in stories.” He smiled and turned to Darina. He placed a hand on her belly, caressing it.

Mirna shuddered. Everything about Aras made her uneasy. He was tall and unbearably thin. His skin was as pale as bleached paper. She could forgive appearances, though, if he’d just stop behaving in an inhuman way. And now he was telling her that he’d be kidnapping her away to the homeland of the Guides. His plan sounded terribly wrong in her head, but she had to consider her alternative: rotting a jail cell for however long they put murderers away for.

That’s pure nonsense,” she said, “and I’m certain you already know I can’t refuse.”

Of course.”

How are you getting me out of here?”

In a word, magic.”

(I’m done for tonight.)

Brayden’s Catalyst 1

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Brayden very much wished to attend the great college of wizards. He was not, however, invited to do so. He resolved to gain entry through illicit means and become a self-taught magician.

His first attempted approach to the grounds was under the cover of night. He meant to scale the walls at what he scouted to be an unwatched edge. He soon found that the statues standing sentinel over over the walls were in actuality very patient golems. His second and fifth attempts involved unsuccessful bribery, while everything in between involved digging. One may begin to surmise why he was not invited.

Brayden continued to monitor the entrance to the college, hoping that inspiration would hit him at some point. It did one fine spring day when he saw a young woman exiting the college grounds riding in a carriage. Though he saw her for only a brief moment, the image of her blonde, curly locks and soft, pouty lips stuck in his head. She looked to be everything he’d ever wanted in a woman and just looking at her filled him with a sense of desire. He immediately set off to follow  the carriage.

As he stepped off, a hand grabbed Brayden’s shoulder. “You don’t want to do that,” a woman’s voice said.

“Andy why not?” Brayden asked as he turned. His eyes first focused on her body, she was dressed in student’s robes that looks a size too small for her bust. He raised his eyes to her face and found himself looking at something quite the opposite of the vision of beauty he’d just witnessed. Her head was hairless and tiny horns protruded from her forehead.

“Because that was a man,” she said. “Catalyst,” she said, and offered an open hand.

“What?” Brayden instinctively shook it.

“It’s my name,” she said, breaking the handshake.

“Ri–ight. And what kind of name is Catalyst?”

“An Ofyddar name.”

“It’s stupid,”

“It’s better than Brayden.”

He looked shocked. “How did you know my name?”

“You’re stupid,” she replied, and let out a short laugh. Brayden frowned. “Let me explain, and I’m only doing this because I feel sorry for you. If I didn’t like you, I would have let you go after Princess George.”

Catalyst led Brayden toward the entrance gates of the college as she said, “You haven’t been unnoticed in what you do and you’re a bit of a joke around here. You think that because no one’s called you out when you’re hiding that you’re hiding well. And you think that because the walls are so well fortified that the people inside won’t look out. What’s going on is that we’re so well fortified we don’t feel the need to call you out when you’re stalking about. Do you follow?”

Brayden stuttered a bit, then finally let out an affirmative sigh and a nod. He looked away, ashamed, and glanced at his surroundings. He was inside the walls, for the first time in his life. Catalyst continued, “Now, I know your heart’s in the right mode, but your head’s not. What I figure is you need to be told what you’re doing wrong, and then maybe you’ll learn to do things right. Do you know what else you did wrong tonight?”

“Besides briefly lust after a cross-dressing man?” Brayden asked. Catalyst had walked them to some stone benches in the shade of the wall. The sun was getting low and soon the whole front courtyard would be covered in shadow. “Go on, tell me,” he said as he sat down.

Catalyst laughed. “You touched my hand.” She sat down next to him. “I took your name from that contact, and in exchange I gave you something I know.”

Brayden was confused by this at first, but he soon felt a piece of information bring itself to the front of his mind. It was like trying to remember a dream. He had everything there except the words to complete the thought. “You aren’t supposed to do that,” he said.

Catalyst looked immediately ecstatic. “You’re right, I’m not. How did you know?”

“I just d—” he paused, how did he know? It dawned on him quickly. “You told me when you took my name.” Brayden laughed as he rested his forehead in his hands and placed his elbows on his knees. “What do you want with me?” he said after a moment.

“You’re going to help me,” Catalyst replied. “You’re going to help me perfect this information transfer. In exchange, I’m going to let you have access to the library. I’ll check out books that interest you and bring them to my quarters, where you will be staying.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“You will want to.”

Brayden thought for a moment about his alternatives. Finding that he didn’t have any, he said. “I want to.”

“Excellent,” Catalyst said and stood. “Come with me, it has been a long day and I need to relax in a long, hot bath.” She leaned toward Brayden and gave an exaggerated sniff of the air about him. “You will want to join me.”

Brayden, feeling the same airy desire as when he saw the she-he leaving the grounds earlier, replied, “I certainly do.”